A Test century is always special and the jubilation of achieving a double ton is exceptional for any cricketer. Sir Ian Botham is undoubtedly one of the greatest all-rounders to have embraced the game of cricket. With some mind-boggling numbers to his name, Botham was a force to reckon with. An all-rounder is no less than gold in any format. He brings stability in the line-up and provides an extra option to the skipper with his effectiveness. Botham is a legend, and he did a fantastic job for England over the years.
The big Test for India
When India locked horns with England in the third and the final Test at The Oval, the onus of making a comeback was on the visitors. England were leading the series by 1-0 after winning the first Test at Lords comprehensively. All England needed was a draw at The Oval, which would have been enough for them to seal the series. After a disheartening start to the series, India came out hard in the second Test but the incessant rains ended the game in a draw. The Oval Test was India’s final chance to square the series and were in dire need of a win.
England won the toss and elected to bat first. On a batting friendly wicket of Oval, Geoff Cook and Chris Tavare got England off to a solid start. The duo confronted the Indian bowlers with immense confidence and stitched a 98-runs stand at the top. Sandeep Patil got the better of Cook and in came Allan Lamb at three.
Soon after Cook’s dismissal, his opening partner Tavare was cleaned up by Kapil Dev and India were now back into the game. At the crease were two new English batsmen – Gower and Lamb. England needed a partnership to steady the ship and the duo did well in providing one.
Botham arrives at the crease
Both Gower and Lamb looked good and were getting the runs at a good pace. After a good partnership of 89 between them, Gower was caught behind by Syed Kirmani off Ravi Shastri’s bowling. But Lamb continued his good run. England were placed at 185 for three when Ian Botham took guard at the Oval. It was a delicate situation for England, a wicket would have put them in hot water while a decent partnership would have done the same to India.
Not many had an idea of the kind of storm that was about to arrive at The Oval. With a well set Lamb at the other end, Botham got the ball rolling in no time. He was mesmerising to watch out in the middle and scored runs at a brisk pace. He was trailing behind Lamb and by the end of Day 1, England were comfortably placed at 329 for 3 with Lamb and Botham being unbeaten on 96 and 82 respectively. Botham didn’t spare any Indian bowler and this was just a glimpse of the upcoming storm. Unfortunately for India, their skipper Sunil Gavaskar was hit by a fiery stroke from Botham at silly point and broke a bone.
England resumed batting on Day 2 and the pressure of chipping early wickets was on India. Lamb smashed his maiden Test ton in his only fourth innings and steered England to a commanding position. Lamb was unfortunate to have been run-out after scoring a scintillating ton but England were in a dominating position by the time he was dismissed. The partnership between Botham and Lamb was brimming with entertainment as the duo accounted for 176 runs between them.
On Day 2, Ian Botham scripted history by smashing the then fastest Test double ton. He took 226 deliveries in which, he smashed 19 boundaries and 4 sixes. Botham was unstoppable at the crease and took on the Indian bowlers with unmatched confidence.
Botham played one of the best innings in Test cricket, which has been cherished for years now. It was a fine display of attacking batting. Botham was dismissed by Dilip Doshi after which, Derek Randall continued his good form and scored a tenacious 95. England were bowled out for 594 and India now had a mountain to climb with the bat without their skipper Sunil Gavaskar.
India’s fight back
India came out hard and put up a brave fight. Ravi Shastri, Gundappa, Viswanath, Sandeep Patil and Kapil Dev scored half-centuries apiece and helped India avoid the follow-on. Kapil Dev played quite an explosive innings of 97 from just 93 deliveries with the help of 14 boundaries and two sixes. Bob Willis, Phil Edmonds scalped three wickets each while Botham bagged two prized wickets of Dilip Vengsarkar and Sandeep Patil.
England added 191 runs more to their existing total and set a target of 376 for India to chase on the final day of the Test. Tavare remained unbeaten on 75 while Lamb and Gower played well for their 45 apiece. After a rocky start, where they lost a couple of early wickets, India played out 36 overs with utmost care and ended the game in a draw.
Viswanath confronted 116 deliveries for his unbeaten 75 while Yashpal Sharma saw 59 balls for 9 not out. England won the series by 1-0 with Botham being crowned as the Player of the Match.